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7 min read

What Is a Digital Nomad? An Introduction to the Nomad Lifestyle

What Is a Digital Nomad

A digital nomad is a person who works remotely and uses technology to perform their job, often traveling to various locations and maintaining a flexible lifestyle.

Key points

  • Experience the freedom and flexibility of a digital nomad lifestyle by exploring the world while working remotely!
  • Embrace location independence, work-life balance, and minimalism to achieve your dreams as a digital nomad.
  • Prepare for success with financial planning, health & insurance coverage, networking & community resources.

Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world while still earning a living? The digital nomad lifestyle offers the perfect blend of adventure, freedom, and flexibility. In this blog post, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about digital nomads, from the very concept – what is a digital nomad – to exploring popular career paths, preparing for the journey, and essential nomad tools and resources. Get ready to embark on an exciting journey towards location independence and a fulfilling work-life balance!

Defining the Digital Nomad

A digital nomad is someone who utilizes technology to work remotely and travel the world, embracing a lifestyle of freedom, flexibility, and location independence. Innovations that have made this lifestyle a reality include:

  • Affordable Wi-Fi access — now available virtually anywhere in the world 
  • Smartphones — workers and entrepreneurs can be contacted anytime, from anywhere
  • VoIP — the former lag is gone, with a range of tech tools available to make overseas calls easy. 

However, the nomadic lifestyle is not always rainbows and butterflies — living out of your suitcase and constantly adapting to new environments can become challenging over time. Success as a digital nomad hinges on possessing valuable skills or innovative ideas that enable income generation alongside global exploration.

Who are digital nomads?

Hailing from diverse backgrounds and industries, digital nomads typically engage in the knowledge economy, favoring freelance, remote, and entrepreneurial pursuits. They form a vibrant digital nomad community, offering support and inspiration to each other. Among them, you’ll find:

  • Trust fund nomads — traveling on their family’s dime
  • Slowmads — taking it easy and moving at a more relaxed pace
  • Bromads — a slightly pejorative term for the prevalence of young males in the scence
  • Entire families embracing the nomadic lifestyle while the parents work remotely and document their exciting adventures.

Pioneers of digital nomadism like Steve Roberts, Tim Ferris, and Chris Guillebeau have inspired countless individuals to break free from the traditional 9-to-5 and adopt a location-independent lifestyle.

The rise of digital nomadism

In recent years, the digital nomad movement has seen substantial growth, fueled by technological advancements, the popularity of remote work, and an increased demand for flexibility. The question of how many digital nomads exist has become more relevant, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend, with a 50% increase in the number of digital nomads from 2019.

Visionaries like Tsugio Makimoto foresaw that remote working would lead to decreases in materialism and nationalism and spur nations to compete for citizens.

The future of remote work holds exciting possibilities, as more companies recognize the benefits of virtual office spaces and new technologies like Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service become available.

Video: Is the digital nomad life for everyone?

Key Components of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Three fundamental components underpin the digital nomad lifestyle: location independence, work-life balance, and minimalism. Digital nomads prioritize the ability to work from anywhere, often choosing destinations with affordable living costs, reliable internet, and a strong community of like-minded individuals.

Striking a balance between work and personal life is essential, as they need to set boundaries and create routines to maintain productivity while exploring new locations. Finally, embracing minimalism and simplicity, digital nomads often own few possessions and prioritize experiences over material items.

Location independence

As the cornerstone of the digital nomad lifestyle, location independence offers the liberty to work and explore without constraints. Digital nomads often select destinations with affordable living costs, dependable internet, and an amazing community of like-minded individuals.

Public transportation, taxis, and rented vehicles offer exciting ways to get around in a foreign country and take the digital nomad experience to the next level.

Work-life balance

For digital nomads, striking a successful work-life balance is vital, given the constant overlap of professional and personal demands. Setting boundaries and creating routines can help maintain productivity while exploring new locations.

Traveling can also boost the brain’s reaction to change and expand the desire and ability to learn new skills.

Minimalism and simplicity

Emphasizing experiences over material possessions, digital nomads espouse a lifestyle of minimalism and simplicity. They can store their belongings in a storage unit or with family members to ensure they are safe and secure while traveling.

This minimalist approach allows them to fully immerse themselves in the digital nomadic lifestyle, gaining a deeper appreciation for the cultures and environments they encounter.

Popular Digital Nomad Careers

Often, digital nomads tend to opt for careers affording them the flexibility to work under their terms. To become a digital nomad, popular paths include freelancing in various fields, running online businesses, and working remotely for companies that support location-independent employees.

No matter the career choice, the ultimate ambition for digital nomadism is to achieve location independence from a reliable passive income stream.

Freelancing

Freelancing offers digital nomads the opportunity to work on their terms, often in fields such as:

  • Writing — includes content writing (e.g., blogs), copywriting, UX writing and technical writing
  • Graphic design — including company logos and infographics
  • Programming/development — developing websites or apps as a contractor.

The benefits of freelancing include the freedom to work with multiple clients, set your schedule, and potentially earn more money.

However, freelancing also comes with challenges, such as a lack of job security, managing taxes, and finding clients.

Online entrepreneurship

Online entrepreneurship allows digital nomads to build and manage businesses from anywhere in the world, often focusing on passive income streams or niche markets. Popular online business models include:

  • E-commerce — selling or on-selling products online
  • Digital marketing — providing paid search, organic search, social media, and branding support to other companies
  • Affiliate marketing — receiving a commission through links to a third-party site (common with influencers)
  • Online consulting — advising companies around the world in your area of expertise. 

The advantages of online entrepreneurship include flexibility, scalability, and the potential to work from anywhere.

Remote employment

Remote employment with companies that support location independence provides digital nomads and independent workers with the stability of a traditional job while maintaining the freedom to travel. This balance allows them to explore new places and cultures while still earning a steady income.

Remote job boards, freelancing websites, networking events, and online tools can help digital nomads find remote employment opportunities.

While onboarding remote employees comes with its own challenges, these can generally be overcome by taking steps to mitigate the usual remote work challenges. 

Preparing for the Digital Nomad Journey

Setting out on the digital nomad journey necessitates meticulous planning and preparation. This includes financial planning, securing health and insurance coverage, and building a network of fellow nomads and resources.

Each of these elements is crucial to ensuring a successful and fulfilling digital nomad experience.

Financial planning

Effective budgeting for living and travel expenses, establishing reliable income sources, and managing taxes and banking while abroad are crucial aspects of financial planning for digital nomads. They should consider factors like daily living expenses, travel costs, and savings when planning their budget.

Establishing reliable income sources, such as freelancing or remote work, is also crucial. Additionally, digital nomads need to be aware of their tax obligations and banking options to manage their finances effectively.

Health and insurance

For digital nomads, health and insurance considerations encompass securing travel health insurance and acquainting themselves with the local healthcare systems of their chosen destinations. Travel health insurance is vital for covering medical expenses while traveling, providing peace of mind in case of unexpected emergencies or accidents.

It’s essential to research and choose a suitable travel insurance provider to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Networking and community

For those embarking on the nomadic lifestyle, networking and becoming part of digital nomad communities can offer valuable support, advice, and connections. Digital nomads can make lasting connections by:

  • Working from cafes or co-working spaces
  • Joining expat communities
  • Attending local events
  • Taking language classes
  • Utilizing social media platforms like Facebook Groups.

Digital Nomad Hotspots and Visas

Cities offering affordable living costs, robust infrastructure, and a dynamic community of like-minded individuals often attract digital nomads.

Some countries also offer specific visas to attract remote workers, providing them with the legal framework to live and work in these countries for extended periods.

Top digital nomad cities

Top digital nomad cities include Barcelona, Bangkok, Medellin, Ubud, and Lisbon, among others, offering a mix of affordability, culture, and amenities.

These cities have become popular hotspots for digital nomads due to their excellent public transport, co-working spaces, friendly locals, vibrant expat communities, and coffee shops.

Digital nomad visas

Digital nomad visas, such as those offered by Spain, Croatia, and Colombia provide remote workers with the legal framework to live and work in these countries for extended periods. These visas offer an exciting opportunity for digital nomads to immerse themselves in new cultures while maintaining their remote work routines.

It’s important to research the visa requirements and application process for each country to ensure a smooth transition into the digital nomad lifestyle.

Essential Tools and Resources for Digital Nomads

For a digital nomad to thrive, access to essential tools and resources that facilitate remote work and travel is indispensable. This includes reliable internet and communication tools, productivity and organization apps, and travel planning and logistics services.

These resources enable digital nomads to maintain their work efficiency while enjoying the freedom of their nomadic lifestyle.

Staying connected

For digital nomads, maintaining internet access and communication with clients and colleagues through tools such as SpeedTest, Google Voice, WhatsApp Business and Skype is vital to stay connected.

A reliable internet connection is essential for digital nomads to stay productive and keep up with their work responsibilities. Using a virtual private network (VPN) can also help keep sensitive information secure when using public Wi-Fi networks.

Productivity and organization

To manage their work and personal lives while on the move, digital nomads find productivity and organization tools like Trello, Asana, and Evernote helpful. These apps enable users to create to-do lists, set deadlines, track progress, and collaborate with team members, ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently and on time.

Organization tools like these are invaluable for digital nomads, as they allow them to stay connected.

Travel planning and logistics

To facilitate their nomadic lifestyle, digital nomads use travel planning and logistics resources, including accommodation booking platforms, transportation apps, and destination research tools. Websites like Nomad List, Tripit, and Hopper can help with finding the best flights, accommodations, and local attractions, while Evernote can be used to organize travel plans and itineraries.

By utilizing these resources, digital nomads can ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience.

Considering joining the nomadic trend?

In conclusion, the digital nomad lifestyle offers a unique blend of freedom, adventure, and flexibility. By embracing location independence, striking a work-life balance, and utilizing essential tools and resources, digital nomads can successfully navigate their exciting journey. Whether you’re considering becoming a digital nomad or simply curious about this fascinating lifestyle, we hope this blog post has provided you with valuable insights and inspiration to explore the limitless possibilities of living and working remotely.

FAQ

Make money as a digital nomad by pursuing remote work in industries such as development, copywriting, data analysis, translation, and graphic design. Your current career may also be suitable.

Digital nomads typically file taxes for any state they have lived in during the tax year and earned an income from, while a few US states can still impose taxes even after digital nomads have moved out. Therefore, it's important to be aware of how different states manage taxation.

Digital nomads can make anywhere between $20,000 and $250,000 a year, so there is a wide range of potential salaries to consider! No matter what salary you make though, it is possible to make it work as a digital nomad.

Many digital nomads have home bases, either a property they own or one that they rent, which provides stability between their remote working trips. However, some might choose to live a fully-nomadic lifestyle and sold their homes to travel full time.

Digital nomads need a laptop, tablet, or smartphone with internet access, an international cell phone plan, and a VPN for secure remote work.

Article By
Managing Editor
Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.

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